Monday, August 30, 2010

Le Tour de Pinot Stage 5: Willamette Valley Vineyards

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The stage was set for an awesome finale ride to Le Tour de Pinot on August 22. A ride to Willamette Valley Vineyards from The Oregon Wine Blog headquarters in Corvallis has been a goal for more than a year, since the early days of the 2009 Tour when it was just Rick, myself, a pair of spandex, a heavy bike, and a mixture of sweat, blood, and Pinot on the backroads of Oregon. It was the night before the ride, plans were made, water bottles filled, jerseys washed, and the support vehicle loaded...then I got the text from Portland.

"I think the burger I ate for dinner is causing the same effect on my stomach as you had before the last ride" sent Rick.

In what can only be described as gastrointestinal irony of an epic proportion, Rick was taken down and out with only 12 hours to recover for the ride. Determined, he sent his final message for the evening, "I'll sleep it off and be fine in the morning." If only that were true. The next morning, an hour before departure, I received a report of toast and water's failure to enter a blissful union with Rick's stomach, and that was the end of the official tour for Rick. The man, the myth, the legend was going to have to sit this one out.

When the realization hit me that Rick wouldn't be riding to WVV that, I was gripped with panic. You see, Rick is the Lance Armstrong to the Le Tour de Pinot team. Providing the guts, graphic design, cycling prowess, and best fitting spandex on the team, Le Tour wouldn't exist without Rick. Most importantly, though, I was counting on his lively rendition of Eye of the Tiger to push me through the final hill up to the winery. If Rick wasn't riding, who was going to sing Eye of the Tiger? Who I ask?

I knew I had to refocus and do it quickly, or I would crash and burn like General Motors pre-bailout. Further complicating the situation, none of the other 3 riders would be joining me for the entire journey; Linda was set to meet me in Albany, Andrea and Micheal taking a route down from Salem. I would be alone for the first and last 15 miles of the 64 mile journey.

I'm solo, I'm riding solo, I'm riding solo, I'm riding solo, sooloooo.
I'm riding solo, I'm riding solo, sooloooo

yeah it's like S... O... L... O...
S... O... L... O... S... O... L... O...

I had to find a new motivational song. In a final act of desperation as I was carb-loading, I turned to ITunes, and "Regulators" by Warren G and Nate Dogg came up. Old school, sure, but with that I mounted up and hit the road facing a steady headwind the entire way. Upon meeting Linda, it was clear that she wasn't in full swing either. Her bike was on it's way to Louisville for an Ironman, and her sub bike didn't get along with her cycling shoes. Nonetheless, we persevered for 32 mountainous miles to Enchanted Way, the mecca of Oregon Wine Country: Willamette Valley Vineyards and the grueling hilly driveway that comes with it. I bore down, guzzled some Gatorade, and took it head on. It was probably a stupid idea, but I did it...stumbling off of my bike at the base of the tasting room to meet the rest of our party. Micheal, Linda, and Andrea used more pedestrian tactics to make it up the hill, and none were worse for the wear...well, except Andrea who went over her handlebars early in the ride for the only carnage of Le Tour.
Zac, our support driver, also joined us at this point and into the tasting room we went. Know what's just a bit awkward? Walking in to a world-class tasting room with a wedding getting set up on site in full-out cycling gear, sweaty, and hair unkept. Despite our appearance, Wende met us with a smile on her face, a glass of pinot gris for us in her hand, and off on a special tour we went. Wende shared with us WVV's extreme commitment to sustainability, as well as the unique corporate structure of the winery and it's place in the Oregon industry. One of the most notable features is the winery's commitment to Forest Sustainability Council certified sustainable cork on all wines. Did you know you can recycle cork at every Whole Foods Market in the US thanks to WVV?
To the barrel room we went. If you haven't been in Willamette Valley's barrel room, it is certainly a special place. There, Wende shared the winery's barrel philosophy, and also poured us a special sample of the 2009 Pinot Gris straight out of the tank. While not yet bottled, the Gris is showing very nicely and will definitely stand up to previous vintages. It pairs perfectly with crab and seafood, and at around $16 a bottle you can't go wrong.
As we wrapped up our tour outside, a random interloper popped his head over the railing on the deck and started to slightly taunt our attire. That's right, it was none other than Clive Pursehouse, at the winery with a wedding party unrelated to Le Tour de Pinot. Luckily, he was able to join us for some tasting prior to going back to his officiator duties.
We wrapped up our time at WVV with some cheese and more wine (I highly recommend the 2007 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir if you can come across some) and we hopped on our bikes for the journey back. After a quick stop at the gate for a photo, we were on our way to our respective destinations with the 2010 tour in our rearview mirrors. Well, except for the finale dinner which will be held soon.
So, that's a wrap. We're not exactly sure what form Le Tour de Pinot 2011 will take, but you can count on a wider variety of rides taking advantage of Rick's proximity to the Portland area and my proximity to the Corvallis area. We couldn't have done it without our sponsors. Thanks to Avalon Wine, a premier wine shop here in Corvallis, for serving as the main tour sponsor this year. Pop in to their shop for tastings every Saturday, or browse the extensive online selection in the comfort of your home. Also supporting the tour were Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery, the best beer in Corvallis, and Mahlum Architects, a pretty sweet firm that does a ton of work on college campuses in the region.

With that...
Risin' up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times, it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger

1 comment:

  1. I'm putting 100% of the blame on the egg that was on my burger. Sounds like I missed an epic ride, but I'm glad I could help motivate you while not even being there. I feel like next year we should put together an official soundtrack to Le Tour.